China has confirmed a series of ambitious new goals for its growing space endeavours, starting with the launch later this year of a new orbital facility, and progressing through 2018 with the launch of the core module for a large-scale space station, and which includes further mission to the Moon and to Mars.
The first orbital facility launched by China, Tiangong-1 (“Heavenly Palace-1”), was launched in 2011. Referred to as a “space station”, the unit was more a demonstration test-bed for orbital rendezvous and docking capabilities. While it was visited by two crews in 2012 and 2013, neither stayed longer than 14 days, and sinc 2013, Tiangong-1 has operated autonomously, although it has suffered a series of telemetry failures in that time.
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